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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

Hinkle Fieldhouse - Butler Bulldogs

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Hinkle Fieldhouse FANFARE Score: 4.57

Hinkle Fieldhouse 510 W 49th St Indianapolis, IN 46208

Year Opened: 1928 Capacity: 10,000


One of College Basketball's Historic Cathedrals

The Butler men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball teams call historic Hinkle Fieldhouse their home on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. The facility has been regarded as one of the nation’s great basketball arenas since it opened in 1928; through more than eight decades of service, it has stood the test of time maintaining splendor, character, and atmosphere.

The facility has virtually remained unchanged since its opening, but there have been many changes to the historic venue. The original seating capacity was 15,000 in 1928 but scaled down to its current 9,100 through renovations in 1989 and 2014.

Another major change took place in 1933 when the basketball court was reconfigured to run east to west instead of north to south to provide better seating views for events. In 1989, $1.5 million in renovations were made to the reception area, team offices, and locker rooms.

In 2014, $36 million in renovations included wider concourses, added restrooms, expanded concessions, an elevator for public use and ADA accessibility, and the replacement of 9,700 window panes with energy-efficient glass and tuck-pointing of 282,000 bricks to the fieldhouse’s exterior.

Originally christened the Butler Fieldhouse, the arena was renamed in 1966 in honor of the school’s legendary coach and athletic director Paul “Tony” Hinkle who served as head coach for football, baseball, and basketball. Upon his retirement in 1970, Hinkle led the Bulldogs to 560 victories and one NCAA National championship in basketball (1924). He was and is the face of Butler University sports.

Hinkle Fieldhouse was home to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) basketball tournament from 1928-1971, hosted six U.S. presidents, four professional basketball teams, U.S. Olympic basketball trials, tennis matches, track meets, roller derby, bicycle races, and housed the U.S. military barracks during World War II.

The largest crowd (14,500) ever to watch a volleyball match took place at the fieldhouse during the 1987 Pan American Games to see the USA defeat Cuba for the gold medal and the facility was featured in the iconic movie “Hoosiers” as the site of the championship game.

Food & Beverage 4

The food options have improved drastically at Hinkle in the past few years and there are more kiosks available for fans to grab something to eat that is not too far away from their seats. There is an ample amount of basic, but tasty food available inside the building that seems about perfect for the game day crowd.

The concession stands are located at the corner of the upper concourse of the facility and offer hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, and freshly popped popcorn. Pulled pork sandwiches, Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and sweet treats are also available.

Street tacos are available with either beef, chicken, or bean and vegetables. Fans can also enjoy these same toppings on street nachos from the same kiosk. Another kiosk offers beef burgers, foot-long brats, and foot-long cheddar sausages.

Fans can enjoy Pepsi products and also both domestic and premium beers that include Coors Light, Bud Light, and Miller Lite while the premiums include Yuengling Lager and local Upland and White Claw varieties.

The Efroymson Family Gym is open on the lower concourse to Bulldog Club members only. The area offers complimentary snacks and Pepsi products along with wine, beer, spirits, and sandwiches for an additional cost.

Atmosphere 5

The Bulldogs recent success as a national powerhouse and two Final Four appearances (2010 and 2011) have created a surge in popularity with the school. Along with the move into the Big East, fans are now able to witness high-caliber basketball universities of Villanova, St. John’s, and Georgetown, along with local rivals Xavier, Marquette, and DePaul. There is not a bad seat in the house. A majority of the better seats are on top of the action that includes a porch on both ends of the playing court creating a perched view over both ends of the court.

There is a lot to take in at a game at the fieldhouse, including a multitude of banners from both the men’s and women’s programs, hand-painted directions to seats and restrooms, beautiful brick interior, ramps, narrow railings, an excellent pep band and perfect acoustics created by the arched interior. They do not build them like this anymore and it is great to see the old lady still smiling proudly after 88 years of service.

There is a lot of history crammed into the arena, displayed on the main concourse. Spend some time checking out the interactive exhibit that shows highlights of legendary coach Tony Hinkle, the building of the arena, and memorabilia that includes trophies, bronze shoes, and basketballs. You may want to break away from the basketball action and take a walk around to soak up some of the nostalgia. There is a lot here and the arena would be a treat even without an event taking place.

Butler Blue IV is the official mascot of the university and he can be seen being walked on a leash around the arena during the game. Hink the Bulldog is the man-made mascot who parades around the court during contests and helps wave flags along with the cheerleaders during time-outs and breaks in the action. Both bulldogs are potty trained and friendly.

It is an old-time atmosphere and a nod to basketball past; it’s an atmosphere that defines the meaning of Indiana basketball. The upper-level seats are wooden bleachers, but there is enough room to keep you comfortable during the game. The lower section features theater-style seating that creates a little more comfort for the fans. There is not a bad seat in this intimate 9,100-seat facility.

Neighborhood 5

The campus is located within a residential area and close to Broad Ripple Village, a nice place to shop and walk around during the day, but a destination for the younger college crowd after dark. Downtown Indy is only six miles south of campus, but the best place to enhance your visit is in SOBRO (South Broad Ripple) just a few blocks away from campus.

Twenty Tap offers distinctly different craft beers, along with their own, that are unavailable throughout the city. They offer menu options of vegetarian banh mi sandwiches, fried cheese curds, and poutine during the fall and winter months. The beer options also include a $4 pint of the day.

Next door is Fat Dan’s offering mouthwatering and lip-smacking smoked ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken wings, juicy burgers, pressed Cubanos, Italian beef, and house-smoked meatloaf and Reuben sandwiches. There is even a draft beer of the day.

Across the street is Yats, which offers Cajun and Creole cuisine at affordable prices with eclectic surroundings. Further down the road is Mama Carolla’s, which offers world-class Italian cuisine in an authentic setting that is a popular destination in the city.

If you are looking for a hangout with pub food and sports, Moe & Johnny’s is the traditional Butler hangout, and the Sinking Ship offers some interesting vegan and vegetarian options along with plenty of flat-screen TVs for sports.

Fans 5

The fans are rowdy, loud, and boisterous during the games and can be heard blocks away from the building. The program has been extremely successful for the past decade and with two Final Four appearances this decade, it is easy to understand the excitement. These fans are loyal regardless of how the team is performing on the court. Many alumni young and old stay in the city after college and continue to spend their seasons watching basketball at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The fans are respectful to opponents during the game.

Access 3

There is a small lot adjacent to the arena for season ticket holders and there are lots throughout campus and a few places for visitors to park. Your best bet is arriving early and finding a spot on the street or certain spots on campus. Some homeowners may charge a small fee of $10 to park on their lawn and sometimes the narrow streets can become congested with cars looking for the opportune space.

The outer concourse wraps around the lower portion of the seating bowl and houses many of the murals, photos, and trophy cases highlighting the building, the basketball program, and Tony Hinkle himself. You will also find food kiosks and the official team store. The upper-level concourse wraps around the building and provides a stunning view of the court and is where many of the food kiosks are located for purchase.

It may also be fun to walk the residential neighborhood streets with both students and alumni on your way to the fieldhouse. Inside the venue, it is very easy to walk around the upper and lower concourses; bathrooms are accessible from the top rows of the upper section and on the main concourse entrance area.

Return on Investment 5

The price of a ticket sometime depends on who the Bulldogs are playing and how far in advance you purchase your tickets. The box office will offer the best options with upper-level seats selling for $18 but they can then alter from $35 to $55 depending on the opponent.

Games are played routinely at near-capacity crowds and Butler and tickets on the secondary market can be as low as $6 during the week. In other words, this is probably among the best buildings and programs in college basketball. A $15-$30 price tag is a bargain for this type of environment.

Extras 5

The history seeping through the walls of the building is truly a spectacle in itself. The average visitor may want to walk around the concourse to view the accolades, trophy cases, banners, and other memorabilia. You might even want to give yourself a few hours extra just to take it all in before the game.

The end court seating hovers over the floor like a balcony, providing a great view of the action on the court.

Butler Blue III is an actual bulldog who has walked around on a leash throughout the game. He is a friendly canine and can be spotted on the main concourse or even on the floor at times. If you’re a sports movie buff, then it is exciting to be in a place where the championship scenes from Hoosiers were filmed.

Final Thoughts

There are college basketball arenas and then there are its cathedrals. The Hinkle Fieldhouse is the latter and entering its eleventh decade the atmosphere gets only better. The Bulldog program continues to rank high on AP Top 25 and provides its fans with winning basketball and an atmosphere that is loud, energetic, and exciting. Hinkle is what college basketball is meant to be and how wonderful is it that near the end of this current decade, the building will be celebrating its 100th anniversary?

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